March 26, 2020 10:28:21 AM
During Gov. Tate Reeves' teleconference with county supervisors throughout the state Wednesday, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director Greg Michel provided an update on the medical supplies needed to fight the COVID-19 virus.
Calling the current supply "woefully short of what our needs are," Michel said MEMA is establishing a supply chain that should relieve shortages around Mississippi.
"The supply of N95 (medical) masks continue to be woefully short, but we do have a large supply coming in within the next 48 hours and over the course of the next seven days, we should have a good stock across the board," he said.
"We're going to continue to take a push approach to logistics, meaning as long as we have material we are going to continue to push those materials out to the counties until we get a hands up to stop," he added. "We're still a couple of weeks away from being at that level, but that's our goal."
Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle in Columbus and OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville are not currently facing shortages of the supplies needed to fight the virus, hospital officials said.
"We have a good supply of the items we need," said Baptist Director of Materials Management Carl Carter. "We are getting the supplies we need from several different sources. Most are coming from our Baptist system contract vendors. We made an initial wish list to the state, but had to come back and amend it to itemize it and re-submit and are in the process of doing that now. Currently, we have everything we need to take care of our patients and keep our patients, staff and employees safe."
OCH is in a similar situation, said Public Relations Director Mary Kathryn Kight.
"Because we have been conservative with our PPE (personal protection equipment) and have had generous donations from the community at (Mississippi State University), we have the supplies we need at this time," Kight said. "At this point, our needs are being met."
Although hospitals are encouraged to continue to use their usual suppliers, Michel said the state is prepared to fill in gaps where supplies are low.
"Supplies are being delivered directly from here in Jackson to emergency management offices or, in some cases, directly to the hospitals," Michel said. "We're letting the counties make that decision, but emergency management is the point of contact for supplies."
Noting the tornado that hit Tishimingo County Tuesday evening, Michel said MEMA is making sure county emergency management departments have supplies needed to react to weather emergencies even as the state continues to build and distribute supplies to fight the COVID-19 virus.
"We know that we are going into what has historically been the most dangerous month of the year with regard to tornadoes, so (Tuesday) we sent guidance out to emergency management directors informing them that life safety must be the first priority over everything else," he said. "That means, 'Do we open a shelter during the COVID response?' The answer to that is, 'You absolutely open the shelter.' We've done the best we can to make sure emergency management in the counties have the appropriate materials they need to have set aside in the event they need to open a shelter."
Lowndes County Emergency Management Director Cindy Lawrence said her department has the supplies needed in the case of a weather emergency.
"We were discussing possibly opening a shelter (Tuesday night)," Lawrence said. "We do have a good supply, including about 250 masks. If we open a shelter, we'll go by the CDC guidelines as close as we can."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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